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Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announces the opening of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office on Wednesday. Susan Walsh/AP

I haven’t the time to flag every callous and legally-questionable move made by the Trump administration (no-one has) but the establishment of the cynically-titled Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office stands out as a deplorable act of race-baiting, even by Donald’s standards.

The office, which states its purpose as that to assist victims of crimes committed by immigrants, is a in fact a vehicle for Trump’s continued propaganda against immigrants.

Victims of all crimes need assistance. Given that there are fewer victims of crimes by undocumented persons than there are victims of crimes by citizens–because immigrants (documented and undocumented) commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens–VOICE doesn’t even make sense; it pours resources toward a small subset of post-crime law enforcement response.

Trump is demonising immigrants, casting them as dangerous and a threat. This is a lie. Data shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crime, especially violent crime.

The law should function in a way to sanction against all crimes, in all places, perpetrated by any persons against any persons in the same way. Law enforcement should not be advertising, annotating and publicising crimes by a specific group. To do so is the abandonment of impartiality, the abandonment of a key function of the law. To do so is tyranny.

A response from the Immigrant Justice Network landed in my inbox this morning. I’d like to share it.

After 100 hundred days of losing in the courts, legislature, and before the global community, the Trump administration has hit a new low in its attempt to validate an indefensible platform built on racial hatred, fear-mongering, and public deception. The administration has failed to secure credible sources to support its racist claims about immigrants and crime. While the administration has had to resort to inventing lies or “alternative facts” on other issues, with today’s formal launch of the VOICE initiative by DHS, the Trump administration has hit a new low in its exploitation of human loss to serve its own narrow interests.

Operating on the same racist logic that has fuelled the country’s discriminatory policing and mass incarceration of people of colour, VOICE is a shameful propaganda vehicle whose sole aim is to promote fear, social divisions, and the myth of *immigrant criminality*. It says as much about the President’s attitudes towards immigrants as it does about his views towards everyday Americans, whom he thinks he can frighten into passive complicity.

VOICE has no place in our society. As a network that fights for the civil, human, and legal rights of all immigrants, the IJN vehemently denounces this shameful exploitation of tragedy for political advantage.

— Signed Mizue Aizeki (Immigrant Defense Project), Angie Junck (Immigrant Legal Resource Center), and Paromita Shah (National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild) on behalf of the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN)

As if on cue…

Blatant racism. If we needed any more convincing that racism is thriving in parts of the US

Interracial couple denied wedding licence in Louisiana “because of the children”.

In October, I posted an image of Orleans Parish Prison inmates guarded on a New Orleans Bridge following a problematic evacuation. It was within a meandering article charting a chain of discoveries beginning with Arnold Genthe and ending with Pay-As-You-Stay jails in Los Angeles.

My conclusion then remains the same now: Katrina dealt with the poor in the same way a American society and markets have for the past 30 years; it picked them up, took them wherever it was heading on its disastrous path and spewed them out the back with nothing … and likely closer to death.

O.P.P. Inmates guarded on New Orleans overpass following Hurricane Katrina

O.P.P. Inmates guarded on New Orleans overpass following Hurricane Katrina. Credit: David A. Phillip/AP

In February, an assistant producer working on David Simon’s new project Treme got in touch with me to source the above image. (So, expect some Orleans Parish Prison related plot line!)

In response, I spent hours trying to hunt down my original source. FAIL. I found other images like it belonging to David A Phillip/A.P. and so, it is he I credit. I am 99% certain.

I have talked before about prisoners as waste, and this image is a convergence on that thought. Both people and trash have been herded into their corner; trash checked by freeway wall and current, people by armed guard.

This image bristled for some time during which I read reports on rivers full of trash and Charles Moore’s TEDtalk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Then, add hero David Simon telling Bill Moyers that the reason America has never solved the chronic poverty in cities because America’s economy (no longer manufacturing based) does not need 10-15% of it’s population and labour pool. America has turned people into excess.

It begins to get depressing and heavy.

© Megan Martin 2009

© Megan Martin 2009

Add to this the fact I f*#kin’ hate those stupid-pearlescent-pearly-plastic-pearls-destined-to-choke-a-fish and it was all starting to get back to a dirty, sad, wasted and wasteful place.


I’ve never been to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Large celebrations unnerve me and the party – as legendary as it is – remains on my “to avoid list”.

I searched for the image that had bedded like sediment at the foot of my brain stem. Any trash image of the Mardi Gras aftermath was to serve the purpose, but when Flickr presented Megan Martin’s photo it was like string of predetermined conscience came home to fester.

The compositional mirror of these two images just polished my obsession with the unsustainability of most things. Processes have products and by-products. By-products are shipped to Asia to pollute its children or trampled into our unsustainable soils.

Louisiana has the largest number of prisoners per capita in the United States. Fiscally, Louisiana prisons must be feeling the pinch as much as any other state?

It appears a society’s self-made problems – when they  are big – won’t even be washed away by a 100year storm. Let’s stop filling prisons like we fill landfill. Prisoners and their rights cannot be ignored. Prisons are unsustainable.

For a full account of the disastrous evacuation of New Orleans prisoners during Katrina watch Prisoners of Katrina by the BBC.

See Megan Martin’s photos here.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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